Emma Tanner

A Work in Progress

You Can’t Kid the Kids

on April 16, 2013

“Mummy, why did you lie about liking Mrs Davies?”

Whoa, hang on, what?!

“Er… what do you mean? I do like Mrs Davies!”

“Then why were you talking about her with Sarah’s mummy behind her back? It didn’t sound as if you liked her.”

Oh dear. Rumbled by a 7-year-old with big ears and a highly developed sense of justice.

One thing I’ve learned since becoming a parent is that children’s noses are phenomenally good at sniffing out inconsistencies in our behaviour. They may not remember us asking them to make the bed or put their school uniform away but they will definitely remember something that you’ve said that you wish you hadn’t. They will also run this regrettable utterance through their database of our previous sayings or actions to see if they match up. And if they don’t, they will notice. We underestimate the attention they pay us- what we say, what we do- at our peril.

If our words and actions don’t agree, it is the actions that our children tend to pay more attention to. So if we say “You can tell me anything,” but then react with shock or disapproval when they take us into their confidence, they may reason that we don’t mean what we say. If we tell them “I love you just as you are,”  but only show them love and affection when they are behaving in a certain way, they may conclude that we only love them when they are being ‘good’. If we tell them to share with a sibling but moan about our friend who has been slow to return that book we lent her, they will spot the double standard. If we teach them to always be kind and not to say mean things behind someone’s back, but then gossip about an absent friend in our children’s hearing, they will rightly point out our hypocrisy.

The dictionary definition of hypocrisy is

The practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform; pretense.

In other words, saying one thing but doing another. The Bible has a lot to say about this. Jesus was especially critical of the religious people of his day who were very into outward shows of belief, but not so hot on the issues that really matter to God:

Everything they do is for show. On their arms they wear extra wide prayer boxes with Scripture verses inside, and they wear robes with extra long tassels. And they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the seats of honour in the synagogues. They love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi.’

Matthew 23:7

What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe* even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law- justice, mercy, and faith……You are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy- full of greed and self-indulgence!

Matthew 23:23,25

*’tithing’ is the practice of giving 1/10 of all income back to God

So Jesus teaches us what our kids already know- it’s no good pretending to be someone you’re not. You’re not fooling anyone. God sees through outward appearances, and cares much more about what’s going on inside. Let’s instead ask for God’s help to live lives of honesty and integrity. And if we are caught out by one of our little walking, talking consciences, then let’s not be afraid to tell them we’re wrong, we made a mistake, and we’re sorry. Acknowledging that we mess up too, but that we can apologise and be forgiven, will be one of the greatest lessons we can teach them.


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